Friday, April 09, 2004

I've just been watching the Nibbies (aka The British National Book Awards). Who must I thank for this? Richard and Judy (that article tells you all you need to know), the Oprahs of British Daytime Television. Their recent bookclub has met with unashamed sucess, so much so that they are now "one of the most powerful forces in British publishing", and the interest they have created means that this ceremony is now televised for the first time. It was a surprisingly glitzy affair, spoiled only by the fact that Channel 4 tried to cram the whole evening into an hour-long slot, which meant there was some rather abrupt cutting. But that was forgiveable. They managed to squeeze at least three awards into every quarter-hour. The Oscars barely manage one, and I know which one I would rather watch.

It was a deeply satisfying night for Mark Haddon and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, which won both the Literary Fiction and Children's Book Of The Year awards. It was amazing; every single time his name was mentioned, the audience erupted with applause. Newcomer of the Year went to Monica Ali, who was very conspicuous in her absence. But then, it was definitely a night for conspicuous absences: DBC Pierre didn't turn up, either, or Martin Amis, or Jonathan Raban, among others. Sports Book of The Year...well, I won't bother mentioning who won that because I don't care.

Author of the Year went to Alexander McCall Smith, which was great. It was all the more delighting for the fact that, if he hadn't won, I would not have noticed his wonderful trousers as he strode to the podium: red and green tartan! Book of the Year went to Lynne Truss's absolutely marvellous and thoroughly deserving Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which I will effervesce about in a few days. I was having a lovely time, up until that unfailing point when I collapse with disappointment and anger. This moment always, always rolls around at every single awards event (I call it my "Fox Evil" moment, after last year's terrible CWA judging). This time it occured with the TV and Film Book of the Year Award, which was awarded to How Clean is Your House?, a book spawned from a TV show about two middle-aged women who go around cleaning up shamefully messy houses. Michael Cunningham's brilliant [Pulitzer-winning] The Hourswas also nominated, but didn't win. Now, let me get this straight: are you telling me that what is basically a big picture book about two women cleaning houses is better, more worthy of winning, than a brilliant Pulitzer-winning piece of literature? Is that what you're telling me? Seriously? If it is, shut up and go away. Leave me to sulk in the corner.

(Don't worry, though, folks! Kim and Aggie, the two ladies in question, could not be at the ceremony because they are currently flying to the US to film an American version of the show! All is not lost.)

The Richard and Judy Best Read of the Year, voted for by the public, was awarded to Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, which was no surprise. After all, bestsellers by their nature have a lot more readers, and thus more potential voters. And as the book in question has sold three quarters of a million copies here, that is a LOT of potential voters. It still, old grumpy person that I am, annoys me. It just isn't that good. Also, where are all these fans of the book? I know lots of people who've read it, but not one real life person who loved it. A couple have liked it okay, but even they always offer the caveat "the ending's no good, though". Please, let yourselves be known. Stand up; raise your hands? Or at least send me an anonymous note...